As an island nation, Ireland is among the perfect destinations for a cruise. In addition to being extremely accessible from the Western European mainland as well as major British port cities, the country also boasts lots of history and beautiful landscapes. There are a lot of different cruises that call at ports on the Emerald Isle and the following are among the best cruises to Ireland.
5 Best Cruises to Ireland
Are you after a relaxing vacation soaked in culture and history? Or do you maybe want some more nature in your trip? Something that combines everything perhaps? Well, the best cruises to Ireland are those that include everything, from historic sites to Dublin pubs and epic (coastal) landscapes.
These three have it all—and even more! What sets them apart and makes them so great is that they depart from major cities in Western Europe, respectively London/Southampton, Amsterdam and Paris/Normandy. Note that these cruises are all quite popular. In order to find the best cruise deals, you can check out the tips in this blog post. If you’re entirely new to cruising, you might find these cruise hacks and tips useful.
Celebrity Cruises – 12-Night British Isles Cruise (roundtrip from Amsterdam)
The beauty of this particular cruise is that, after a day in Amsterdam, at the Cliffs of Dover, in Dorset and at sea, you’ll be at one of England’s most iconic cities. On the fifth day of this great cruise, the ship docks in Liverpool. Having been an important port city for several centuries, Liverpool is also well-known for being the home of the Beatles.
One day later, the ship will be tendered in Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland. Once a hub a sectarian violence, Belfast has undergone a tremendous transformation and now boasts both reminders of its turbulent past and ultra-modern architecture. Visit the Titanic Quarter and explore a pub-lined waterfront before hopping back onto your ship. On day seven of this amazing cruise—truly one of the best cruises to Ireland—you’ll be in Glasgow, Scotland, where you’ll spend the entire day exploring one of the UK’s greatest historic cities.
The city of Dublin is the next destination. The urban symbol of Ireland, this is a place dating back a thousand year and filled to the brim with historic architecture and lively pubs. There’s plenty to do and you only have one day, so you’ll have to choose between iconic attractions such as Dublin Castle, Trinity College, St. Stephen’s Park, the Jameson Distillery, the Guinness Storehouse and the James Joyce Cultural Center. From Dublin, the ship sails to Cork (Cobh).
After two memorable days in Ireland, the cruise continues back across the English Channel to the coast of northern France. You’ll dock at La Havre, from where you can go on an excursion to Paris, the iconic French capital. Another day at sea brings you back to Amsterdam, the starting point of this awesome Ireland cruise.
Celebrity Cruises – 14-Night Azores & Transatlantic Cruise (one way from Fort Lauderdale to Dublin)
Another superb Celebrity cruise to Ireland is their 14-night Azores & Transatlantic Cruise from Fort Lauderdale. This is a one-way cruise from North America to Europe, including six ports. You’ll leave Fort Lauderdale, Florida in the late afternoon, after which the ship will be crossing the Atlantic Ocean for a full week (seven days).
On the ninth day, you’ll arrive in Madeira, one of the beautiful Portuguese Azores islands. The ship docks in Funchal, the island’s largest city, and you’ll have a full day to explore. Known as the “Floating Garden”, Madeira is home to a wealth of various fruit, vegetables and flowers. Its rugged mountain ranges, sheer cliffs and verdant valleys might even remind you of tropical islands like Hawaii.
After another two days at sea, you’ll arrive in Cork (Cobh), the culinary capital of Ireland. This ancient city is chock-full with lively pubs, great museums, historic churches and a plethora of quality restaurants.
Next up is Belfast, Northern Ireland’s capital and a city boasting both historic sites and modern architecture. Despite its notoriously violent past, Belfast has managed to transform itself into a cultural hub in this part of Europe. Don’t miss the Titanic Quarter.
After a day in Liverpool, you’ll arrive in Dublin, the final destination of this amazing cruise to Ireland.
Princess Cruises – 12-Day British Isles Cruise (roundtrip from London)
Twelve days on Princess Cruises’ Regal Princess take you to no fewer than seven ports all over the British Isles, including a stop at Le Havre on the European mainland. The ship departs from London (Southampton) and heads to Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands.
After a day on Guernsey, you’ll arrive in Cork (Cobh) on the second morning of your cruise. Make sure to grab a picnic lunch at Cork’s superb English Market before heading out for a visit to Blarney Castle, arguably Ireland’s most famous fortress. If you’re interested in archaeology and history, the region around Cork has plenty to keep you busy. It has one of the densest concentration of prehistoric sites in Western Europe. Thanks to an overnight in Cork, you’ll have plenty of time to explore this fascinating part of Ireland.
After Cork and surroundings, the ship calls at Dublin, the Irish capital. You have a full day, morning, afternoon and evening, to explore some of the top highlights of this great city. This diverse city is one of Europe’s most popular places for city breaks and it’s easy to see why. Besides its historic buildings and vibrant nightlife, Dublin is also a great literary city. This is, after all, the former home of writers of the likes of Wilde, Beckett, Joyce, Shaw and Yeats.
The ship continues along the Irish east coast, where you’ll visit Belfast. Northern Ireland’s capital has had its fair share of violence and turbulence, but it is now experiencing an urban renaissance. Visit the historically contested neighborhoods and see political graffiti along Shankill Road and Fall Road. Also don’t forget to also check out Titanic Belfast, a futuristic-looking museum about Belfast’s shipbuilding history—this was, after all, the Titanic was built.
You’ll then spend a day in Glasgow, visit Invergordon and Edinburgh before looping back along the eastern side of the British Isles and across the English Channel to Le Havre and Paris. There are plenty of excursions options here, including a trip to Paris, a visit to Rouen and a a tour of the D-Day beaches. A short English Channel crossing brings you back to London (Southampton).
Holland America – 14-Day British Isles Explorer (roundtrip from Amsterdam)
On Holland America’s British Isles Explorer cruise, you’ll spend two full weeks (14 days) sailing around the British Isles, discovering the cultures, architecture, cuisine and history of these ancient islands. Since this is one of the Ireland cruises from Holland America, it departs and ends in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, which is, of course, also a fascinating European city to explore.
On the way from Amsterdam to Ireland, you’ll also swing by stunning Belgian cities like Antwerp, Brussels and Bruges. A day at sea later, you’ll arrive in Dublin, Ireland’s capital, on the fifth day of this fantastic cruise. After a long and well-filled day of exploring Dublin’s historic heart, you’ll continue onward to the Isle of Man, which lies between England and Ireland, where you’ll have another day of exploration before sailing to Belfast.
Spend a day discovering Belfast’s historic sites, lively pubs and modern museums before heading to Liverpool and the rest of the United Kingdom. Also on the itinerary are stops in great destinations such as the Isle of Skye, Kirkwall, Inverness and Edinburgh, which make fore four amazing days in Scotland. You’ll arrive back in Amsterdam on the morning of the fifteenth day of this Britain and Ireland cruise.
Royal Caribbean – 12-Night British Isles Cruise (roundtrip from Amsterdam)
As you might already have noticed while reading about these best Ireland cruises, there are many cruises to Ireland that depart from (and return to) Amsterdam. Another mention-worthy example is this 12-night British Isles Cruise from Royal Caribbean. On the well-equipped Brilliance of the Seas, you’ll loop around the beautiful British Isles in a counterclockwise direction.
Departing from Amsterdam. you’ll first spend a day on the North Sea before arriving at Edinburgh, one of Scotland’s greatest historic cities, where you have a full day to do some exploring. The next stop is Inverness, which can rightly be considered as on the the country’s most spectacular destinations. Here, you’ll have the opportunity to visit world-famous Loch Ness.
A full day at sea later, the ship arrives in Cork (Cobh), Ireland’s second-largest city and home to fabulous restaurants, majestic churches and renowned historic sites like Blarney Castle. After Cork, you’ll sail back north to Dublin, where you will have a day and a half day to discover everything the Irish capital has to offer.
You’ll also swing by Wales, Guernsey and Dover before returning back to the Amsterdam port, for an well-rounded and highlight-filled tour of the British Isles.
Ireland Cruise Ports and Their Attractions
There are three main cruise ports in Ireland that are often included on itineraries offered by the world’s leading cruise lines. Both in the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland, they provide a taste of three corners of the island: Cork (Cobh) in the south, Dublin in the east and Belfast in the north. Below, we’ve outlined some of the top attractions you can visit in each specific Ireland cruise port.
The English Market – bustling food market offering all kinds of local culinary specialties
Blarney Castle – iconic Irish castle that’s home to the kissable Blarney Stone
Cork City Goal – castle-like former prison that’s now a fascinating museum
St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral – towering Gothic Revival cathedral with three spires
Cobh – main cruise terminal in Ireland, a half hour south of Cork, and the final stopping point of the Titanic before it sailed into the Atlantic
Temple Bar – lively cobblestone-street neighborhood filled with pubs, shops and art galleries
Trinity College – historic and world-renowned university, the library of which houses the famous Book of Kells
Jameson Distillery – original site where Jameson whiskey was distilled; now a whiskey tourism attraction
Guinness Storehouse – Ireland’s premier brewery experience, with history exhibits, tastings and a rooftop bar
St. Patrick’s Cathedral – largest and tallest church in Ireland
Dublin Castle – one of the oldest surviving buildings in Dublin, seat of the British government in Ireland until 1922
Glendalough – a monastery located in a gorgeous valley, probably the best day trip destination from Dublin
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Titanic Quarter – home to the docks where the Titanic was built, as well as the phenomenal Titanic Belfast museum
Shankill Road and Falls Road – two roads symbolic of respectively the loyalist and republican communities in Belfast, lined with political and sectarian murals
Belfast pubs – no visit to Belfast is complete without having a pint in a local pub, an essential experience
Carrickfergus Castle – 12th-century Norman castle just north of Belfast
Antrim Coast and Giant’s Causeway – classic Northern Ireland excursion to stunning coast and the region’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site
As far as the best cruises to Ireland go, it’s hard to imagine anything that can top this, especially if you’re looking for more adventurous, off-the-beaten-path cruise destinations.
These are without question some of the best cruises to Ireland.
They take you to a couple of the island’s greatest historic cities, providing a good taste of what Ireland has to offer. From cultural experiences to culinary delights, historic sites and world-famous beers, these cruises deliver it all!
Born and raised in Belgium, Bram is currently based in the Pacific Northwest where he spends his days blogging, hiking, indulging in freshly roasted coffee and sipping craft beers. An experienced traveler, his most memorable journeys include a sea crossing on a cargo ship, a cruise along the Norwegian fjords, a multi-month bike trip around northern Europe, and a road trip across Australia. He's obsessed with America's national parks.